Sunday, February 17, 2013

Water in Namsaling

In 2008, a community-wide health survey was conducted in Namsaling with support from the Namsaling Community Development Centre (NCDC). This survey covered every health ailment under the sun, from blood clots to diarrhea, from sleep apnea to back pain. Included in this survey were questions relating to water resources and seasonality of water, as well as sanitation facility availability. The 1,200 households that were interviewed a huge amount of data, data that T and I, along with a few friends, have been mining through for years. A follow-up survey was conducted in 2009, much more refined and a lot shorter, and only a 30% representative sample was conducted (I’m happy to say that we just found that sample to be truly representative!).

Walking to different sites in Namsaling.
For T and I, this trip was two-fold: number one was visiting old friends and family in Nepal, several of whom are now married with babies. The second purpose for our “vacation” was to follow-up a few lingering questions regarding the health survey and audit the past projects we had worked on. As we are both water engineers, are interests invariably center around water, water treatment, and water availability.

From the 2008 survey, we were able to create a heat map of Namsaling: we used mapping software to overlay reported water-related diseases (such as diarrhea and fever) with latrine accessibility, and finally with water availability. The resulting map highlighted those areas where families were reporting higher cases of diarrhea and fever, and either no or little access to latrines and water were seen.

Why is this important? This map provides the local NGO (non-government organization) with a clear picture of where to target future water, sanitation and hygiene interventions (WASH). It’s gives them an excellent “bang-for-your-buck” approach for Namsaling. That is good and fine for Namsaling, but the local org is not working in Namsaling anymore, can it be used elsewhere? The most pressing need that came out of this trip was for a report summarizing not only the results, but also the method to conduct the survey, analyze the data, and generate something meaningful from it.

We’re hoping that this “toolkit” we have been working on will allow for both the local NGO and the local government (or maybe national?) to run with it, apply it in other communities, and provide an approach that is rigorous, academic and necessary.

Another failed project? Is "provision" more important than quality"?
The last thing we worked on was identifying the locations of water sources throughout Namsaling. Many we already know the locations, but they survey identified numerous that we had not visited. We are hoping to use the locations of these springs, and of the households, and better understand the relationship between proximity to a water source and instance of disease. Namsaling is very, very hilly with lots of springs, so this might be a useless exercise. But it might not be, and it might shed some light on concentrations of water sources and health.

Collecting a water sample from a spring next to the road.

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